Cerebral palsy (CP) is the result of a brain injury or a brain malformation that occurs while a child’s brain is still developing. It is described by loss or impairment of motor function (cerebralpalsy.org). It affects body movement, muscle control, and muscle coordination, which among other things, also affects a person’s ability to speak clearly.
About 50% of children with CP have communication disorders, and it’s usually caused by dysarthria. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, dysarthria is a motor speech disorder that affects the muscles of the mouth, face, and respiratory system to become weak, move slowly, or not move at all. Children with dysarthria as a result of CP often have shallow, irregular breathing for speech, potentially affecting the rate at which they try to speak. Kids also may have a low-pitched, harsh-sounding voice, with little pitch variation (onlinelibrary.wiley.com).
In the past few years, studies have been done on the effectiveness of treatment for children with CP. One study published in the Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology in 2010 investigated intensive speech and language therapy for older children with CP. They found that intensive therapy that focuses on stabilizing children’s respiratory and phonatory effort and speech rate could increase the intelligibility of their single words and connected speech. There was no noticeable change in the 6 weeks before therapy, implying that the treatment, rather than maturation or natural change, increased intelligibility. The results from therapy were maintained 6 weeks after intervention, during which they received no treatment, implying that the effects of therapy were maintained (onlinelibrary.wiley.com).
Another study, conducted by the School of Psychology and Speech Pathology at Curtin University in 2012 evaluated the effectiveness of the motor speech treatment Prompts for Restructuring Oral and Muscular Phonetic Targets (PROMPT) in the management of motor-speech impairment in children with CP. All participants in the study showed a significant improvement in performance level of motor speech movement patterns and continued to do so 12 weeks after treatment. All participants showed improved perceptual accuracy and speech intelligibility as well (espace.library.curtin.edu.au).
And now, University of Strathclyde’s Anja Kuschmann is doing research that could eventually help kids with CP speak more clearly. The research will analyze verbal patterns, breathing, and intonation (“prosody”) in young people with CP. Because the characteristics of CP vary from person to person, Kuschmann hopes that this will highlight new ways to provide customized treatments to every child living with CP (www.medicaldaily.com).
As you can see above, Intense Therapy really does have Intense Results! So here’s to better CP research in the making!